By: Ted Nugent
It happened on the hot, arid 114-degree tarmac in Baghdad, Iraq, 2014. Toby Keith and I were in the middle of our extended USO tour throughout the hell lands of the war on terror, fresh from the battle at Fallujah. Each day provided profound experiences witnessing the heroic, super-human powers of the amazing U.S. military warriors in action.
On this day there was an increased spirit in the cooking desert, air and a solemn aura indicated a new, different and moving dynamo afoot. We were used to a nonstop buoyant energy and positive attitude in every camp, every outpost, every gathering, every event, but today there was no laughter or shout-outs, not even a smile.
The way I understand it, Toby and I were authorized to take part in a solemn ceremony that was restricted to military personnel only. Whether that is an accurate appraisal or not, we felt something very special, and were silently escorted to a corner slab of concrete where a large, long metal ramp jutted out from the belly of a huge C130 cargo plane.
At our side were uniformed GIs, shoulder to shoulder, looking straight ahead stoically. We were not given any special instructions, but when the troops straightened up and saluted, Toby and I followed suit, and then they came.
One after another, flag-draped coffin after flag-draped coffin were wheeled onto the C130, escorted by their American BloodBrothers as those who made the ultimate sacrifice were loaded onto their last flight home.
I am an adequately emotional guy. I’ve said goodbye to my mom and dad, grandparents, aunts and uncles and my share of people I love and respect. But after a few weeks of hanging out with the troops and absorbing that something special, their dedication and willingness to sacrifice for us all, I felt a more powerful connection and appreciation for who they are, what they do and how we got here than I ever had before.
My dad, Warren Henry Nugent, served heroically in the U.S. Army in World War II and Korea. My brother Jeff served in the U.S. Army as well. I’ve shared way too many campfires to count with the men and women of the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corp, National Guard and Coast Guard. I know that freedom is not free, and there is no greater sacrifice than for a man to be willing to lay down his life for his fellow man.
For many years now when I wake up on Veterans Day, I pick up the phone and I call as many veterans as I can. I called my brother Jeff. I called Navy SEAL hero Marcus Luttrell. I talked to Gary O’Neal, “American Warrior” author and the real deal.
I call Sheriff Bob Blevins who valiantly served four tours of duty in Vietnam.
I let them know that every caring, thinking, educated American dearly appreciates their service and sacrifices.
I let them know that we are very sorry that their commander in chief has betrayed them and that so many elected employees in our government have violated their oath to the U.S. Constitution, the same Constitution so many of their brothers died for.
I remind them that more and more Americans are fighting harder to take back America and return her to the America they fought for.
I remind them that more and more Americans are returning to our “we the people” duties to engage our elected employees and demand constitutional accountability. Such experimenting in self-government is not just a privilege; it is by all considerations our uniquely American duty, possible only due to their sacrifices. How dare we not fulfill that duty.
I’ve hung out with and listened to the stories of a survivor of the Bataan Death March. I’ve been truly blessed to connect with vets of WWII and the Korean War. I’ve been humbled beyond words to be welcomed into the lives of so many Vietnam vets.
I’ve visited the heroes at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center and Brook Army Medical Center. I was in Landstuhl Military Hospital in Germany at the bedside of Pfc. Todd Balding when he bled to death from an RPG center mass.
For many years I’ve hosted hunting trips for heroes from every branch of the U.S. military, and each and every time I am moved to the extreme by these exceptional warriors.
I’ve celebrated Thanksgiving at the VA in Waco, Texas, and at Fort Hood with the heroes that captured Saddam Hussein.
Our Freedom’s Angels charity built a huge outdoor patio at Brook Army Medical Center for the heroes to recuperate in the great outdoors protected from the blazing Texas sun.
We have had a standing red-carpet invitation to vets at my concerts for more than 30 years, and they make us play better.
More and more of us are fighting hard and demanding we fix the tragedy of the Department of Veterans Affairs, bringing back the respect, honor and care to those most deserving.
It is fitting that this month we celebrate Thanksgiving, thanking God for his annual natural bounty and so much more. Veterans Day and Thanksgiving go hand in hand.
At the Nugent house, we never forget that the American Dream comes at a steep, serious price, and we will never forget that our veterans are the providers of all things freedom and liberty.
Happy Veterans Day every day, warriors. Thank you and Godspeed.